Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The World's First Feature Film

The world’s first feature film’. This is the legendary but uncrowned status of Australia’s The Story of the Kelly Gang, a film that hasn’t been seen in its full length for almost a century. In 1906, when it was released in Melbourne, Australia had been a Federation for only five years. The cinema was a young art form, specializing in two-minute fiction films, ‘scenics’ (primitive forerunners to travel films) and news footage. The term ‘feature film’ had already been used to describe the short highlights of screening programmes, including artistic milestones like Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902) and The Great Train Robbery (1903). The Story of the Kelly Gang, however, was possibly the first ‘feature’ by today’s standard – judged by length, not artistry. From January 1908, it would tour England as ‘the longest film ever made’. Until we discover otherwise (from, say, the previously unearthed vaults of China or India), it would seem that for that date the claim is true.

The question is: how long was it? Advertisements during the original Melbourne season claimed that the film was nearly 4,000 feet long (running over an hour), but that might have been promotional hype. Media reports suggested every length from 2,000 feet to ‘over one mile’ (5,280 feet), from ‘forty minutes or thereabouts’ to ‘over an hour’. The discrepancies might have been partly due to multiple versions being screened.


Arthur Eades said...

To: Daniel,

Clicking on the heading should take you to the website (it worked for me). Otherwise, type in: historytoday.com/archive. Good luck.

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